"What they came back with made me cry."
April 27, 2018 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Six months ago, a parks official cleaning out an office came across two cardboard boxes that had been sitting around for decades. Inside were 2,924 color slides, pictures made in parks across New York City’s five boroughs late in the summer of 1978. No one had looked at them for 40 years.
posted by Horace Rumpole (48 comments total) 94 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was a young kid living far from New York when these were taken, but I am surprised at how they're moving me. Incredible find.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:35 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


Any non-paywall links?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:35 AM on April 27 [4 favorites]


Thanks! I love stuff like this.
posted by freakazoid at 8:39 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


Beautiful!

I was 9 years old. These images match my own memories of that particular summer so closely - the kinds of images that flood my mind when I hear this song. Synonymous with "childhood" for me as a kid growing up in the nimbus of NYC, just becoming aware of the possibilities of the world.
posted by Miko at 8:42 AM on April 27 [5 favorites]


Any non-paywall links?

Right-click. Open in private/incognito browser.
posted by klanawa at 8:42 AM on April 27 [4 favorites]


Here's the website of the NYC Parks Arsenal Gallery where the exhibit runs May 3 – June 14, 2018. Only one photo up there now which is an alternate shot to one in the article.
posted by larrybob at 8:45 AM on April 27


These are lovely -- thanks for posting this!
posted by holborne at 8:54 AM on April 27


I love this. I was 14 and living in Queens in 1978. When I was in third grade, a pool opened in my elementary school playground and we lived there all summer long. I remember we had free summer camp. There were a couple of lifeguards and the ubiquitous lanyard-making and trying to keep from burning yourself on the metal swings, the metal monkey bars (no padding on the concrete ground), the metal slides. It was the best. I can't find a picture of the pool online, but it's still open. It was an oasis for a city kid.
posted by ceejaytee at 9:01 AM on April 27 [7 favorites]


Those pictures are beautiful. I hope that the world can look through all the slides eventually.
posted by deezil at 9:05 AM on April 27 [2 favorites]


Heh, I grew up in Chicago in that era. I remember going to the playground, climbing up the slide grabbing a handful of sand and dirt, then sliding down on the sandy dirt because the slide was so horrible. I remember hippy type guys walking around. And yeah, the monkey bars were a glorified lead-pipe contraption, and it was all cracked concrete.... and "don't play there, there's broken glass!" comments from my parents who were barely paying attention

Better? No. Mine? Yes.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:06 AM on April 27 [10 favorites]


limbing up the slide grabbing a handful of sand and dirt, then sliding down on the sandy dirt because the slide was so horrible.

Wow, you just brought back a complete sense memory for me. Including the smell of the slide heated in the sun, shimmering.
posted by Miko at 9:22 AM on April 27 [9 favorites]


Like the starlight that travels millions of years before we see it, the four little boys stand in their underpants at Coney Island on an August day in 1978, and it is only now, in a found photograph, that we behold them.

#BlockThatMetaphor
posted by thelonius at 9:28 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


I can't stop watching the "big grown adult people double-dutch". So wonderful.
posted by asperity at 9:30 AM on April 27 [12 favorites]


I'm a big fan of the lady wading in the fountain, carrying her shoes. Hashtag summer goals, also if I don't already have shoes like that I'm gonna need to get some, those are cute as hell.
posted by palomar at 9:54 AM on April 27 [17 favorites]


… the kinds of images that flood my mind when I hear this song.

Haha I knew that link would be Chicago before even clicking on it. I'm apparently the same age as you—with blond hair that kid in the opening photograph could have been me. I can remember hearing Sunday in the Park being played on 8-track by my older sister and thinking how exotic and wonderful big-city life seemed to small town me.

Unrelated really, but it's nice to see photos of the era and finally no longer feel put off by the dated fashion and my own emotional response to it, but instead simply 'yes, that was what was worn then.' It sure has taken long enough to reach that point; maybe the trauma of all that horrible polyester is finally fading. Its feel always made my skin crawl as a kid.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 9:56 AM on April 27 [5 favorites]


Absolutely beautiful, but being the Times, they had to get that "kids today with their smartphones" dig in there. Why can't people just appreciate things for what they are or were, without having to be nasty about it?
posted by explosion at 10:03 AM on April 27 [20 favorites]


it's nice to see photos of the era and finally no longer feel put off by the dated fashion and my own emotional response to it, but instead simply 'yes, that was what was worn then.' It sure has taken long enough to reach that point; maybe the trauma of all that horrible polyester is finally fading. Its feel always made my skin crawl as a kid.
posted by los pantalones del muerte


epolysterical.
posted by fedward at 10:04 AM on April 27 [18 favorites]


I am like super afraid of all my workout clothing because clingy polyester brings back uncomfortable sense memories of the 70s. As soon as I understood what was making all my shirts stick to my back all summer I started insisting ALL COTTON and driving my mom nuts. Now basically every time I put on a shirt that's intended to sweat in I have to remind myself it's supposed to do that and presumed to be better for it. Thanks, 1970s childhood!
posted by fedward at 10:09 AM on April 27 [3 favorites]


a complete sense memory

I get strawberry-flavored JOB papers from the kids smoking a doobie
posted by thelonius at 10:11 AM on April 27 [2 favorites]


Wow, gorgeous stuff. I wish that I could have gotten into photography when Kodachrome was still around.
posted by octothorpe at 10:16 AM on April 27 [2 favorites]


I'm a big fan of the lady wading in the fountain, carrying her shoes. Hashtag summer goals, also if I don't already have shoes like that I'm gonna need to get some, those are cute as hell.

Everything about that woman reminded me of my late mother-in-law, who spent most of her life in NYC. (She's been gone for 10+ years and I divorced her son 17 years ago.) Tony drove me fucking nuts when she was alive—in retrospect, if I were a better person, I would have been more patient with her.
posted by she's not there at 11:18 AM on April 27 [4 favorites]


Also, thank you for the link—lovely pictures. I hope someone comes across a similar box of Chicago pictures.
posted by she's not there at 11:19 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


as with the get down, this resonates nostalgically with me approximately 10,000 times more than stranger things.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:51 AM on April 27 [3 favorites]


"Life, uncurated."

NY Times, you're getting real fucking annoying. These are photos from professional photographers. They are "curating" this depiction of life via the choices they make when they click the shutter.
posted by desuetude at 11:53 AM on April 27 [23 favorites]


Not just professional photographers, "eight staff photographers whose pictures normally ran in The New York Times, but who were idled for nearly three months in 1978 by a strike." And then later it says "No one is sure, any more, how long the photographers worked or how much they were paid. Probably not long and not much." The irony of the photos being published in the Times now is not lost.
posted by fedward at 12:08 PM on April 27 [9 favorites]


desuetude: ""Life, uncurated."

NY Times, you're getting real fucking annoying. These are photos from professional photographers. They are "curating" this depiction of life via the choices they make when they click the shutter.
"

Plus they're only showing you a small sample of the 3,000 slides that were taken. Winnowing that down to the number that they're including in the show and on the webpage is the definition of curation.
posted by octothorpe at 12:15 PM on April 27 [15 favorites]


When someone curates their own life, it's bad. When someone else curates their life, it's fucking art.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:22 PM on April 27 [5 favorites]


This is how I remember my childhood; I grew up in the southwest corner of Lincoln Park in Chicago. it’s pretty posh now, but in the ‘70s it belonged to the Latin Kings; gang territory. Broken glass, playgrounds were like gladiator arenas, riding my bicycle with baseball card annoyingly clipped to the front fork, hip hugger bell-bottoms with clogs, unicorn stickers, getting the older kids to crank open the fire hydrant on August days, Mom’s Avon products delivered by the milk man....now i gotta find the boxes of slides and film that the parents gave me when they sold the brownstone on Racine.
posted by lemon_icing at 12:23 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]


I love the caption that says "The ocean has not quite left their hair." What a beautiful way to depict the passage of time. These photos are fabulous! I keep wondering where these people are now.
posted by but no cigar at 12:29 PM on April 27 [4 favorites]


I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but these photos had me sobbing. My 1970s childhood was not good, but still I miss this world so much. I love the way we looked then. Not our clothes but our tans and the kind of moderate physical fitness that came from doing things, not from going to Anytime Fitness. And yes, the text was terrible, but the part about the smart phones got to me. I miss a world without cell phones. I miss the harvest gold telephone on the kitchen wall. Everything is changing too fast for me. I want to sit on the stoop on a summer night under the amber streetlight but now it’s these horrible LED lights that make everything look like a prison yard. I have such understanding now for old people who yearn for the past. I guess I’ve become one.
posted by HotToddy at 2:14 PM on April 27 [29 favorites]


I miss a world without cell phones.

I really do too. I miss just being present all the time, not knowing of any other alternative.
posted by Miko at 2:25 PM on April 27 [11 favorites]


I miss those shorts, too. The knit shorts with the piping. In the summer we used to sit around on the screened porch, hot and bored, imprudently tanned, wearing those shorts, and not looking at cell phones.
posted by HotToddy at 2:50 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


i mean. you can throw your phones away. that's within your power.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:53 PM on April 27 [4 favorites]


Sure, I can throw my phone away. But people are gonna come after me if I start taking out LED street lamps...

(Yes, this is something I have fantasized about doing.)
posted by Secret Sparrow at 4:13 PM on April 27 [5 favorites]


Wish I could go see that exhibit.
posted by Kangaroo at 4:20 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]


My street has these faux victorian street lights from the '70s that are still very amber colored. The city keeps threatening to replace them with blue leds but so far the neighborhood has blocked them.
posted by octothorpe at 4:45 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but these photos had me sobbing. My 1970s childhood was not good, but still I miss this world so much.

posted by HotToddy


Yes, I get that. I was a 9-year-old in the summer of 1978, in Milwaukee, and in an awful place. But there were days where I could fly down the street on my hand-me-down bike to Washington Park after my day at summer school, or run around the backyard at twilight, chasing fireflies with an old mayonnaise jar, or lie on the grass trying to count stars when darkness fell. I don't think I've spent a summer evening just looking at stars since I went to Australia in '99.
posted by droplet at 6:43 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]


My main takeaway from this as an archivist in the public sector is that here's yet another example of how no one is following local government records retention transfer advice. The only reason they were "hidden" for decades is because we don't fund archives and recordkeeping staff the way we should across society.
posted by mostly vowels at 6:47 PM on April 27 [7 favorites]


Ahhhhhh. I was born in 1978 and was a city kid (grew up in Boston, grandparents were in Queens) and this is pinging my early-childhood nostalgia so hard. You can feel the heat of the city summer. Those pictures of kids together remind me of running around with the neighborhood kids on our dead-end block until the sun went down on summer evenings.

I miss those shorts, too. The knit shorts with the piping.

Yessss!
posted by lunasol at 6:53 PM on April 27


i mean. you can throw your phones away. that's within your power.

It's not that I want me to change. I want everything to change. Can't put the toothpaste back.
posted by Miko at 7:12 PM on April 27 [5 favorites]


Sure, I can throw my phone away. But people are gonna come after me if I start taking out LED street lamps...

(Yes, this is something I have fantasized about doing.)
posted by Secret Sparrow 4 ¼ hours ago [3 favorites +] [!]


My vision is to shoot them with a paint ball gun. With amber-colored paint balls, if that would work. Otherwise with black.
posted by HotToddy at 8:37 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


we don't fund archives and recordkeeping staff the way we should across society

Christ, we don't fund education, health care, housing—we can't even fucking feed people the way we should.

But we seem to be doing OK re armed forces.
posted by she's not there at 3:21 AM on April 28 [4 favorites]


I really would like to look through the photos without the captions, especially when they scroll annoyingly over the top of the images. The words didn't add anything for me.
posted by pinochiette at 7:19 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]


I was a young kid in New York during that summer. Always hoping to see pictures of those days.
posted by kadmilos at 3:54 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


The comments on the Times story are just as fun to read as the ones here and on reddit.

I was curious about the photographers and what happened to them:
Neal Boenzi: Art of the Street Photograph
Joyce Dopkeen,mentioned in this story, retired in 2008. She was the first woman photographer hired at the NYT. In 1973. Here's a photo she took of Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid.
D. Gorton lives in Illinois now.
Eddie Hausner died in 2002. Some of works have been exhibited at MOMA.
Paul Hosefros retired in 2004 and moved to Boise. He did a book about Idaho Wine Country.
I can't find anything about a Bob Klein that matches a career at the NYT. I almost wonder if it's really William Klein? But did he even work for the Times?
Larry Morris died in 1987.
Gary Settle seems to be retired and doing pet and wildlife photography.

Boenzi, Morris, and Hausner in the early 50s.
posted by Miko at 4:30 PM on April 28 [7 favorites]


Got the print version special section today. it's nice. There are all of these pictures there and a handful more in the same vein. On the back is a copy of the Times story that ran when the strike ended. There's also a little mini-essay about the boom box, and the factoid that "in 1978, the parks of NY totaled about 29,000 acres, roughly equal to the entire land mass of San Franscisco or Boston."
posted by Miko at 8:08 AM on April 29 [2 favorites]


Anyway to view these images without the annoying as hell watermarked website thing they have going on?
posted by GoblinHoney at 2:49 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Anyway to view these images without the annoying as hell watermarked website thing they have going on?

Visit the public library and look at last Sunday's NYT Magazine.
posted by larrybob at 11:14 AM on May 2 [2 favorites]


« Older The worthy-but-dull obituary of Gustav Born   |   Tokyo, 1992, in spectacular Hi-Vision Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments